2 Timothy 3:8

The apostle vividly depicts their attitude toward the truth.

I. THEY HAVE THEIR HISTORICAL PROTOTYPES. "As Jannes and Jambres withstood Moses, so do these also withstand the truth."

1. These were two Egyptian magicians, called "wise men and sorcerers (Exodus 7:11-22), who appeared at the court of Pharaoh to resist the wonder working power of Moses. Their names do not occur in the Old Testament, but they are found in the Targum of Jonathan, and are also quoted by heathen writers. What was more natural than that the apostle should quote to Timothy one of the two traditions of his country?

2. These magicians, reported to have been sons of Balaam, were thwarted in their arts by the superior power that worked through Moses. The parallel was therefore in a double sense apt.


1. They may have used occult arts like their Egyptian prototypes to attract disciples; for the word seducers," applied to them in the context (ver. 13), has this signification. The claim to possess such powers was not unusual in that day (Acts 8:9-24; Acts 13:6-12; Acts 19:18-20).

2. But, like Elymas, they withstood the truth of the gospel, by representing themselves as possessing as much authority as the apostle himself , and thus neutralizing its exclusive claims. They subverted the hopes of the gospel.

III. THE EXPLANATION OF THEIR ANTI-CHRISTIAN ATTITUDE. "Men of corrupt minds, reprobate concerning the faith."

1. Corrupt affections depraved their mental judgments. Even that, mind, which is the medium through which the Holy Spirit makes his communications to man, had become darkened. "A corrupt head, a corrupt heart, and a vicious life, usually accompany each other."

2. The doctrines of these teachers had been tested and discovered to be worthless, like silver which was to be rejected by man. They had nothing but the name in common with the Christian faith.

IV. THE CHECK THAT WOULD BE GIVEN TO THEIR PROGRESS. "But they shall proceed no further; for their folly shall be evident to all men, as theirs also came to be." This passage seems opposed to ch. 2:16, where it is said that "they shall advance to more ungodliness;" but in that place

(1) the apostle is speaking of an immediate diffusion of error, in this of its ultimate extinction;

(2) in that place the advance toward ungodliness is asserted, here there is a denial of its successful advance without exposure. The evil would advance, but only to a certain point, and the true character of its promoters - "their folly" - would be made as manifest as was that of the Egyptian magicians. - T.C.

As Jannes and Jambres withstood Moses.
I. THE NATURE OF THE OPPOSITION OFFERED BY THESE MEN TO MOSES. You do not find that they tried to make light of the miracles of Moses, or call in question their genuineness, or anything of the sort. No, they simply tried by imitations to depreciate the value of the real. They so surrounded the true diamond with cut glass copies that in the eye of an undiscerning public it was difficult to tell the difference. This is the kind of resistance the Church has to struggle against in the present day. The old, rough, brutal, physical opposition has passed away. It would be folly on the part of Satan to try and use such weapons now. Like a skilful angler he suits the fly on his hook to the season of the year. Variety, if not pleasing, is profitable to him in this respect. Having failed to do away with Christians, he now seeks to make the whole world Christian after his sort. Stamping out the genuine having proved an utter failure, he now seeks to swamp them with imitations of his own manufacture.

II. THE INFLUENCE OF JANNES AND JAMBRES. Jannes and Jambres wield an immense power in the present day, and it is no use shutting our eyes to the fact. Jannes is not to be got rid of with a laugh, nor Jambres with a smile of indifference. Their existence is a source of constant danger, and their presence in the professing Church does more to paralyze its testimony than all the outward opposition and persecution it has ever met. This form of Satanic resistance is an awful proof of the deep-sightedness of the great adversary. He knows that nothing can possibly deaden the power of the Church's testimony more than flooding it with a number of cold formalists, who in the eyes of the world can do as much as the genuine Christian. And then when the world detects they are but shams and finds that it has been deceived, so much the better for him, for he knows that the whole Church will be judged by the impostors, and all put down as belonging to the same family. Counterfeits destroy confidence. This is true in everything. It is unprincipled rogues that make it so hard for honest men to get their bread. It is quackery that keeps the true medicine out of the field. It is bubble joint-stock companies that eat out all commercial trust, and make the very name to many a synonym for fraud. Everywhere the true and real are suffering through the influence of the false and base imitations. I have heard an anecdote somewhere that so exactly sets forth the idea I have in my mind I cannot but tell it. One gentleman made a wager with another that if he stood on London Bridge with a tray full of sovereigns and offered them to the public for sixpence each, he would not sell half a dozen of them in the day. All day long the man cried out, "Real sovereigns for sixpence," and declared with all earnestness that he could guarantee their genuineness. Of course no one believed him and he sold none. Why? Because the public had so often seen sham sovereigns for sale that it never doubted they were the same. The gilt having come first had destroyed all faith in the gold. Just so in the spiritual world. The existence of Jannes and Jambres eats out all faith in the reality of any Christian life.

III. THE END OF THEIR RESISTANCE. They were put to shame (see Exodus 8:18). Ah Jannes, it must have been a bitter moment when you stood convicted before all of being an impostor! How complete the collapse of their pretensions. So shall it he with their followers of to-day. This Paul most distinctly states in the verse following our text, "But they shall proceed no further: for their folly shall be manifest unto all men as theirs also was." "Folly"? No other word could better describe their resistance. The hypocrite is of all fools the greatest. He is almost certain to be unmasked in time, and even should he carry on the horrible deception unto the last, what shall it profit him when God calleth for his soul? Now just as Jannes and Jambres failed to do all that Moses did, so there are some things that the mere formalist can never accomplish. I will but mention two.

1. He has no power to bear trouble with joyfulness. His whole life being one of externals, when he is driven by force of circumstances to seek his joy in the life within, he fails, and fails utterly, for there is no life there. A sham Christianity withers up in days of trouble. It has no arms to put beneath a man when the dark waters of sorrow roll and surge around him. No, it can do none of these. It fails like the magicians when needed the most. The "form" may do for bright and sunny days when sorrow and sickness are unknown, but it requires the "power" to triumph in the winter night, and to "take joyfully the spoiling of the goods." Put a Jannes or Jambres amidst a number of anxious souls, and tell him to speak to them and point them the way of peace. See how he fails.

2. If not, I pray you to remember that Jannes and Jambres were included in the doom of the Egyptians. When the angel of death walked through the streets of Egypt, there was no exception made. The form of religion does not save — the appearance of piety is of no avail.

(A. G. Brown.)

This must teach us to keep our judgments pure, and our understandings clear, for it is our guide, and if that mislead us, we must needs fall into the ditch. Corruption in judgment (in some respects) is worse than corruption in manners, especially when the mind hath been enlightened with the knowledge of the truth; for this is the root of those corrupt manners that are amongst us. In the time of the Law, the leprosy in the head was of all other leprosies the most dangerous and destructive; the man that had it in his hand or feet was unclean, but if it were in his head then he was to be pronounced utterly unclean (Leviticus 13:44). Hence the Scripture gives so many caveats against errors and erroneous ones (Deuteronomy 13:3; Philippians 3:2; Colossians 2:8; 2 Peter 3:17; Matthew 7:13). Beware of false prophets; the word implies a diligent study and singular care, lest we be caught by such subtle adversaries. Keep your judgments pure.

1. There have been false teachers in all ages to oppose the truth and the professors of it. As Jannes and Jambres here oppose Moses, a meek, a learned, a faithful servant in all God's house.

2. That as the devil hath his Jannes and Jambres to oppose the truth, so God hath His Moses and Aaron to uphold it. As the devil hath his domestic chaplains, so God hath His armed champions; and as the devil raiseth up oppressors, so God sends saviours.

3. A corrupt head and a corrupt heart usually go together; no sooner are men's minds corrupted, but presently it follows they are reprobate concerning the faith; and if once men make shipwreck of faith, they will soon part with a good conscience too. Corrupt principles breed corrupt practices; and corrupt practices teach men to invent corrupt principles. Be sure, then, to keep your heads free from error, if ever you would have your hearts and hands pure from sin.

4. That false teachers are very dangerous persons — they are not such meek, innocent, harmless persons as some imagine. The apostle here tells us that they are impudent, fraudulent, resisters of the truth, men of corrupt heads, hearts, and hands; and what could he say more unless he should call them devils? and so he doth (ver. 3), in the last days, men, especially seducing men (for all these nineteen sins are applicable also to the false teachers of the last times, as appears by the context (vers, 5, 6). These study to please men, and therefore they are no servants of Christ (Galatians 1:10), all their fine speeches are but like poison given in honey, which destroys more swiftly. They set a gloss upon their false tenets as tradesmen do upon their bad stuffs to make them sell the better. They can cite Scripture to draw you from Scripture, and tempt you to be irreligious by religious arguments misapplied. This is the devil's great masterpiece which he hath now upon the wheel, he carries his deadliest poison in a golden cup (Revelation 17:4).

5. They wrest and abuse the Scriptures for their own ends. They do violence to the Law (Zephaniah 3:4), they wrest and wring it, they add, they detract, they change the sense, they set it on the tenters to fit it to their fancies, they turn it this way and that way as may best serve their purposes; they set it on the rack, and so make it speak what it never thought. They compel the Scriptures to go two miles, which of themselves would go but one. They deal with them as chemists do with natural bodies, which they torture to get that out of them which God and nature never put into them (2 Peter 3:16).

6. They seek their own glory, not God's. They cry up nature, and decry grace, they cry up a light within them (which is no better than darkness), and cry down God's word without them. Simon Magus sets up himself instead of God (Acts 8:9, 10), they drive at self in all their actings (Romans 16:18; 2 Peter 2:3, 14). Impostors are always great self-seekers. These are contrary to God's faithful ministers.

(T. Hall, B. D.)

1. Its weapons.

2. Its sworn comrades.

3. Its stubbornness.

4. Its final fate.

(Van Oosterzee.)

As God set bounds to the sea, saying, Hitherto shall ye come but no further, and here shall thy proud waves be stayed (Job 38:11), so He limits the malice and madness of men how far they shall prevail; He only can stop these seas of error, and bound these floods of false doctrine which are ready to overflow the face of the world.

(T. Hall, B. D.)

Our comfort is that both the deceivers and the deceived are ordered by the providence of God (Job 12:16); He sets down the time when they shall begin, and limits them how long they shall continue, He orders how far men shall deceive, and to what height they shall come and prevail, and when to stop them, that they may proceed no further: for as the maliciousness, so the deceivableness of men would know no bounds if God did not bound it; but because He doth, therefore though they would, yet they shall proceed no further. No man can do good till God assist him, and no man shall do hurt when God will stop him (Revelation 20:3).

(T. Hall, B. D.)

Heresies are seldom long-lived — such meteors last not long, such mushrooms soon vanish; witness Becold, Knipperdolling, Phifer, etc. Though for a time they may deceive many, yet in a short time God discovers their hypocrisy to their reproach.

(T. Hall, B. D.)

Heresy is like a cloud which for a little time darkens the Church, and then vanisheth. But truth, though it meet with opposition at first and hath few followers, yet increaseth and prevails against all opposition. It hath its plus ultra, it is perpetual and endures for ever.

(T. Hall, B. D.)

Pride and impudence, they do not only preach but print their blasphemy: a sign their end is near. Smoke, the higher it riseth the sooner it is scattered (Psalm 68:1, 2).

(T. Hall, B. D.)

They shall fall —

1. Irrecoverably.

2. Easily.

3. Suddenly.

4. Surely.

(T. Hall, B. D.)

Observe, that God will overthrow false teachers, by discovering their coverings and making known their delusions to the world. As a disease discovered is half cured, so an error discovered is half conquered. Usually before God overthrows wicked men He discovers their vileness first, that the glory of His justice may be the more apparent, and His people may come out from amongst them.

(T. Hall, B. D.)

When the sun ariseth the clouds scatter, and where the Son of Righteousness is powerfully preached and published, heretics hide themselves, and dare not make that open sale of their wares as they do in dark corners. Let us therefore pull off their masks of liberty, their sleeves of sanctity, and their trappings of hypocrisy: let us expose their error, stripped and naked in their own natural deformity, and they will soon be exploded by all, so that they shall proceed no further.

(T. Hall, B. D.)

He is infinitely just, though His ways be secret and full of darkness to us, yet they are always just. When clouds and darkness are round about Him, then righteousness and judgment are the habitation of His throne (Psalm 97:7). He can make a medicine of the poisonous oppositions of wicked men, their malice shall be as horse-leeches to suck out the bad blood, as a file to take off the rust, as rubbish to cleanse the vessel and wash away the filth, and as a touchstone to try the graces of His children. And though His providences seem to cross His promises, yet wait the conclusion, and you shall see and say He hath done all things well. We see in a clock though the wheels run cross and contrary one to another, yet they all conduce to the going of the clock. Joseph's imprisonment is the way to his preferment, and Jonah's drowning was the means to save him from drowning. We must not judge of God's actions before they be formed and finished.

(T. Hall, B. D.)

Their folly shall be manifest unto all
1. This is seen in the manifest folly of sin. Sin is always folly, but this is not always made manifest in the course of human affairs. But God's government is such that, though the folly of sin be not in every case made manifest, it is always made clear that God thwarts the designs of wicked men, no matter how ingenious they may be. Men play the knave, only to show themselves fools. Their deeds ever pass in review before the never-closing eye of Him who holds every destiny in His hand. Under every wise system of government sin is demonstrated to be folly, though it may not always be exposed.

2. One of the declared principles of this effective government is, that crime shall be its own warning. There are earnests of penalties and promises of penalties, no less pronounced, in every-day life, than in the written moral code, the latter to follow us hereafter. The trial and punishment of law-breakers remain unfinished here, though there are generally enough admonitions to associate sin with approach ing danger. Owing to the cross-workings of law upon law, here the danger is not so apparent; but the Divine economy marks its criminals before they are arraigned.

3. Sin is often limited by exposure, pain, and special judgments, so that God Him self becomes the greatest restraint. Destruction of Sennacherib's army.

4. Divine grace often limits sin in action. Conversion of Paul.Lessons: —

1. If there is a limit to wickedness, and to wicked men, in their course, there must be a limit to individual sins. The believer has to struggle more or less with sin while in this world, but there will be an end of all that conflict.

2. Living under such a government, how unwise to lead wicked lives l

3. The Christian can be faithful and energetic in his work. Sin is sure to fail, and righteousness to succeed.

(W. M. Barbour, D. D.)

Some time ago I was a little alarmed at the stealthy progress which that accursed system — secularism — was making in Lancashire. But God settled it. God sent us the cotton famine; that settled it: and secularism has never rallied since. When the secularists used to come out to meet us, they said to the people, "Don't listen to these men; all they want is your money. All their talk is about the next world. They do not care about this. They do not care about your having food, clothes, and healthy homes." And thus we were taunted everywhere. Then occurred the outbreak of that terrible cotton famine. Where were the secularists then? Like the Arabs of the desert, they folded up their tents and silently stole away. And they who had said it was their special mission to deal with temporalities, forgot all temporalities but their own, and came up to London to lecture upon anything — "admission threepence."

(C. Garrett.)

Dr. John Hall, in one of his sermons, compared the attacks of infidelity upon Christianity to a serpent gnawing at a file. As he kept on gnawing, he was greatly encouraged by the sight of the growing pile of chips, till, feeling pain and seeing blood, he found that he had been wearing his own teeth away against the file, but the file was unharmed.

You have heard of the swordfish. It is a very curious creature, with a long and bony beak or sword projecting in front of its head. It is also very fierce, attacking other fishes that come in its way, and trying to pierce them with its sword. The fish has sometimes been known to dart at a ship in full sail with such violence as to pierce the solid timbers. But what has happened? The silly fish has been killed outright by the force of its own blow. The ship sails on just as before, and the angry swordfish falls a victim to its own rage. But how shall we describe the folly of those who oppose the cause of Christ? They cannot succeed; like the swordfish, they only work their own destruction.

(G. S. Bowes.)

Error is a palace of ice, which at last must melt and tumble down necessarily, when but one ray of the sunlight of truth penetrates it.

(Van Oosterzee.)

Luther hoard one day a nightingale singing very sweetly near a pond full of frogs, who, by their croaking, seemed as though they wanted to silence the melodious bird. The Doctor said, "Thus 'tis in the world; Jesus Christ is the nightingale, making the gospel to be heard; the heretics and false prophets are the frogs, trying to prevent his being heard."

(Table Talk.)

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